“When I first moved to the city,” Sara told us as we opened another bottle of wine, “A friend of a friend of my parents hooked me up with a bargain of an apartment on Park Avenue. The only catch was that I had to drop in on the old woman who owned the building, get her a few groceries occasionally, things like that. But the rent was unbelievable, so I jumped at it.
It was one of those prewar apartment buildings that had been flatted up, with walls at odd angles, and uneven wooden floors that creaked, and heating pipes that clunked and ticked. So at first, I didn’t really notice that the hall closet wouldn’t stay closed.
Every day after work I’d visit the old woman, and sit with her for a while. It was actually more of a hassle than I thought, because she was losing her mind little by little. She’d get paranoid. Or she’d lose something and think I stole it. Or she would sit there, staring at the wall, as though she didn’t know I was even in the room.
And at night, I’d constantly be woken up by the damn closet. It sounds silly, but every night I’d close it, and it would low open with a bang.
I put it down to drafts. I closed it more carefully. But still, in the middle of the night, bang, it would open again. So I’d leave it open. But that was no help either. Bang Bang, in the middle of the night, the door would bump against the frame.
Old apartments have strange drafts, I thought. Maybe the wood gets cooler overnight, and shrinks, and everything is free to move. So I wedged a chair under the door handle, and went back to bed.
An almighty crash jolted me awake. I went out into the hallway, and the chair was upended, and the door was open again.
The next day when I took the old woman a bag of bagels and orange juice, she was calmer than usual. I made her a coffee and we chatted about this and that. She asked me how I was liking the apartment, and I said, it was great apart from the closet door. And this is where it gets really spooky. She told me that years ago, my apartment and her apartment were one big apartment where she’d lived with her family. And that her son had hanged himself in the closet. Honest to god.
My first instinct was to go back home to my parents in Jersey, but then I thought, no. I’m a grown up now. This is my apartment. And I can’t be scared out of it by some dumb closet. So that night, I set up a chair in the hallway, and turned off the light and waited.
I waited and waited. Every hum of the fridge, every tick of the heating set my nerves on edge. I stared at the door, listening. And then, I heard a creak. I could hardly breath. I sat there, my heart beating in my ears, listening.
And ever so slowly. The door clicked off the latch, and swung outwards. It opened about 2 inches, then stopped, and swung back with a gentle bang. Bounced open again, 4 inches, and back. Bang. And open. 6 inches and back. Bang.
I caught the door, pulled it wide and stared into the darkness of the closet.
“I know you’re here,” I said. And my voice sounded high and weak. “I’m sorry something terrible happened to you in this place. But I need you to know that this is my apartment now, and that I live here. And I need you to leave.”
And then I closed the door firmly, and I went to bed, where I sat, listening, until the light outside turned to gray, and it was morning. The door stayed closed.
And it never banged open again. Make of that what you will.”
Oozing Pus Chocolate Cupcakes5 oz chocolate (just less than 2 bars) ¼ cup plus 1 tbsp butter 3 large eggs 3 large egg yolks ¼ cup of sugar 3 tbsp flour 8 – 12 white chocolate truffles (I usually use the Lindt Lindor ones that are sold individually at the checkout in my local supermarket. They are especially oozy)
- Pre heat the oven to 320
- Put the truffles in the fridge to firm up
- Melt the chocolate and the butter in a bowl over a pan of hot water or in the microwave
- Meanwhile whisk the eggs, the yolks and the sugar until they are fluffy and pale (by hand; 5 mins, by electric whisk; half that time)
- Fold the chocolate gently into the egg mixture
- Add the flour and stir to combine
- Divide half the mixture into cake cases – or straight into a well-greased muffin tin
- Pop a truffle on top
- Layer over the other half of the chocolate mixture
- Bake for about 15 minutes – keep an eye on them – and cool for 10 minutes